I have a neighbor and friend who brings me groceries during this pandemic. Today she squeezed in a grocery run between other errands, and we had a conversation when I picked up the groceries. She had to pick up grandchildren earlier, and I mentioned that she’s always having birthday parties, or celebrations of various occasions; she’s always doing something for her children and grandchildren.

“You are very blessed, you know,” I said.

She smiled. “Yes, I know.”

Years ago, when I was teaching at UNO, the university was what was called, at the time, an “open admissions” campus. No admission requirements. There were students literally clogging the remedial English classes. Some of them had taken the course several times. Every member of the English faculty had to take a turn instructing these classes. We all accepted this rotating duty with good grace because we believed—or tried to believe—in the open admissions policy.

One day during my turn I was trying my best to explain to a student what was wrong with the subject and predicate of “She don’t swim.” He was taking remedial English for the third time, and he couldn’t register for other courses without passing it. Finally, I asked him what he wanted to be when he graduated. “A nuclear physicist,” he answered, smiling broadly. I asked him what gave him the idea of going to UNO to reach this goal, and he answered, “The recruiter! He come to our school and told us we could be anything we wanted to be.” I went back to my desk thinking, Somebody ought to take that ‘recruiter’ out and shoot him. Here was a young man who’d been set up for failure by a liar who cared only about his own success.

And you hear it everywhere still today, as we watch the fruits of that deception on evening news: You can be anything you want to be! Well, no, you can’t. You can only be what God made you to be. And if you try to be anything else, you’ll fail, you’ll be unhappy, you’ll make other people unhappy, and you may even cause harm. But people, especially the young, believe the false advertising of those who have a vested interest of one kind or another in getting them to believe what is really a lie, using their vanity or their sense of inferiority to seduce them.

I always wanted to be a wife, mother, and grandmother. But the truth is that we can’t always choose what happens in our lives. In other words, we can’t be anything we want to be. In pursuing an identity he did not intend for me, I was no different from that student who wanted to be a nuclear physicist. When I surrendered my own will to his, all my frustration and disappointment vanished.

And I thought of all this when my friend was telling me about her errands today.

“You are very blessed, you know,” I said.

She smiled. “Yes, I know.”

And so, I added: “Your greatest blessing is that you know you are.”

She’s very wise—and a wonderful grandmother. It may be that God blesses us all equally and each of us differently, and those who are most blessed are those who know they are.

Dena Hunt
Dena Hunt's first novel, Treason (Sophia Institute Press), won the IPPY Gold Medal. Her second, The Lion’s Heart (Full Quiver Press), won the Catholic Arts and Letters Achievement award. Jazz & Other Stories, her third book, has just been published by Wiseblood Books. She is the book review editor of St. Austin Review.

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